PROFIT Magazine: “Unconventional Wisdom” Column February 2011

By evoke
February 17, 2011

Somewhere out there are people predisposed to buying your product or service. You just have to show them your “why.”

By Ian Chamandy and Ken Aber, February 16, 2011

If you want more success in selling, you should “start with why.” So argues Simon Sinek in his groundbreaking book of the same name, which decodes how people and organizations inspire others to follow their lead — or buy their products.

Sinek, a professor of strategic communications at Columbia University, uses his Golden Circle to explain the difference between companies that inspire people to buy and those that must resort to overt persuasion. The outer ring of the Golden Circle represents “what” you do (your product or service), which all companies know. The middle ring is “how” you do it (your key differentiator), which most companies know, even if they can’t articulate it. The inner ring is “why” you do it; very few companies know their “why.”

In Sinek’s view, making money is not your “why,” although profit is the product of it. Rather, your “why” is the higher purpose to which your company is committed, that single cause that resonates on an emotional level with your customers, employees and shareholders about what you do. If you are committed to a compelling cause, there is a community of people out there who will associate with it strongly, will derive a sense of belonging from it and commit to you with their brand loyalty. Even a plumbing company can be committed to a cause, such as greening neighbourhoods (one house at a time), as long as it has a total focus on the cause and the substance to back up the claim.

Apple is Sinek’s paradigm example of a company that knows and lives its “why” — namely, changing the game in everything it does. As long as Apple’s products and messaging stay true to its “why,” the company can inspire masses of people who affiliate with that game-changing ethos to line up for anything it sells. Sinek contrasts Apple with Dell, which failed in its attempt to branch out into MP3 players and retail stores because people think its “why” is limited to custom-built computers.

According to Sinek, the Golden Circle tells us that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Discovering your “why” and living it in every aspect of your business will differentiate your products, engender customer loyalty and give you the market’s “permission” to diversify.

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